As California reopens, officials hope social distancing prevents new coronavirus outbreaks
SAN FRANCISCO — More of California was reopening Monday as coronavirus restrictions continued to be eased in the state, with hopes the changes will help the economy without causing a rise in new cases.
At least three Bay Area counties — San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin — plan to incrementally ease their social distancing restrictions starting Monday.
They join many other counties across California — including Los Angeles — that are allowing curbside service at some retailers. Officials hope physical distancing rules will allow the businesses to reopen without creating new public health problems. In large counties in both Southern California and the Bay Area, malls as well as nonessential offices remain closed.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced last week that all curbside retailers would be allowed to reopen as of Monday for pickup and delivery.
She had cautioned for weeks that San Francisco would be slow to reopen. But at a news conference Wednesday, she said the city’s next phase meant that 95% of San Francisco’s retailers would be allowed to open starting Monday. Warehouses and manufacturers also are allowed to reopen, but the city has imposed a limit on the number of employees allowed in each business.
“We do see the numbers flattening,” Breed said. “They have not declined, but the fact is, we are in a better place.” She said hospitalizations for COVID-19 remained flat, and hospital capacity was stable.
Retailers open for curbside pickup are allowed to have no more than 10 employees on site; if the store is small, no more than five. Manufacturers and warehouses may have no more than 50 workers on site, said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of health for the city.
All open businesses must ensure social distancing, mask-wearing and have in place a health and safety plan, he said.
San Mateo County officials said conditions had improved enough to modify the stay-at-home requirements.
“I want to remind everyone these modifications are not being made because it is safe to be out and about,” Scott Morrow, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “The virus continues to circulate in our community, and this increase in interactions among people is likely to spread the virus at a higher rate.”
Santa Clara County, Northern California’s most populous county, will join the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area in moving into Phase 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan, allowing for curbside pickup at many retail stores.
Health officers in the Bay Area said they have seen a number of positive signs since the last loosening of stay-at-home orders executed on May 4, which allowed all construction and certain businesses that primarily do work outdoors, like gardening and landscaping, to resume.
Businesses around the Los Angeles area this weekend began to figure out what the new normal looked like as restrictions were eased. Curbside pickup was allowed, but social-distancing rules required that the public not enter stores that didn’t provide essential services such as food and medicine.
At the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Kip’s Toyland reopened with only one worker per shift as coronavirus stay-at-home orders finally eased a bit.
The store was not allowing anyone inside Saturday, but that didn’t stop customers from trying.
“We have had a surprising amount of people that have actually come up to the door even though we’ve been trying to do mainly phone orders,” employee Eli Margolis said, “so I’ve been doing this kind of crazy thing of having to run around the whole store and show them something they might like.